New Deal

Either I don’t understand the concepts in play here, or business schools are living much further in the past than I thought.

The Times ran “Multicultural Critical Theory. At B-School?” A few paragraphs into the article, I sat there scratching my head. This is news? Business school students “needed to learn how to think critically and creatively every bit as much as they needed to learn finance or accounting. More specifically, they needed to learn how to approach problems from many perspectives and to combine various approaches to find innovative solutions.”

MIT figured out back in the late 1960s or early ‘70s that their engineers required more than ‘rit’matic of the three Rs. They hired my mom and several other writers to come to campus and inspire the students in the readin’ and ‘ritin’ part of education. Mother was appalled that the people who were being educated to design our buildings and electrical grid and jets could barely construct an English sentence. I thought the matter had been resolved then that a liberal arts education – or at least a few liberal arts courses – was a requirement of any curriculum.

But I guess education goes through these mini revolutions every few years. I remember the big furor when I started law school a few days after Nixon resigned because ethics would now be a required course. Good grief! It was no longer an option to learn such things as, “A lawyer shall not reveal information relating to the representation of a client unless the client gives informed consent,” And “A lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client.”

Roger Martin who has been preaching the gospel of analytical thinking for business school students for a decade but it’s just now catching on. The idea seems obvious, but there are naysayers. “Happy the way they are” was the reaction of the University of Chicago administrators. Aren’t these the folks whose leader, Milton Friedman, and his theories drove us into the economic mess were in? It would seem a dose of “big picture” analysis might have given them the creative imagination to see that the result of their free-market thinking would be the unadulterated greed that gave rise to Bernie Madoff & Co.

In contrast, the students who took courses in creative analysis do seem to have the flexibility and imagination that will make the world a better place. Of course they may just come up with more and better ways to mess up finances for the rest of us.


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